Sunday, November 15, 2009

West Point: Army VS. Vanderbilt

Well, talk about a great time!!!! I had the opportunity to attend the West Point Army football game vs. Vanderbilt. But first, let me give you a little background. In March 2009, I attended West Point for a Wounded Warriors event, as Miss Westchester County and was hoping to have the opportunity to return to West Point as Miss New York.

In the process of planning a trip to West Point, Ken Nelson, my fantastic business manager, :) received an email from Cadet Sergeant, Gavin White, a cow (junior), regarding the West Point banquet commemorating 500 days until his class graduated and wanted to know if Miss New York would be his date. Unfortunately, the event falls during the week I will be in Las Vegas for Miss America. Ken kindly sent his regrets that I would not be able to attend. Since I was flattered to have been asked to attend this special West Point event, Ken and I began thinking of how we could surprise Cadet Sergeant White on another day. 

Soooo, Ken made phone calls and I was invited to attend the West Point-Vanderbilt game. After confirmation we tried to keep my attendance a secret. We attended a breakfast that morning, observed the cadet review, attended the Superintendent's tailgate, and Cadet Sergeant White and I signed autographs in Black Knight alley. Well, this is where I tried to surprise him. Although, he already received word that I was attending, considering the stellar communications of our Army!

After our time at Black Knight Alley, we went into the game!! Talk about a crazy, on the edge of your seat football game--it was fantastic!! The best news: ARMY WON!! woohoo! :)

Army vs. Vanderbilt was a great time and I look forward to attending another game. (Maybe Army vs. Navy, wouldn't that be fantastic--Cadets and Midshipmen!! Oh yea, and great football! )

                                                            (or an Army basketball game)

Building Homes For Heroes--Charity Gala 2009

Building Homes for Heroes provides individuals, corporations and others with an opportunity to help our severely wounded and disabled veterans and their families rebuild their lives.
Many of these young men and women are coming home badly burned, with permanent and unsightly body disfigurements, missing limbs, the loss of sight or ability to walk, psychiatric conditions or paralysis.

Building Homes for Heroes is committed to supporting these extraordinary men and women, with a goal to build homes for families in dire need. They believe that it’s our responsibility to support those who have been called upon to make the ultimate personal sacrifice — to protect and safeguard our country by fighting America’s War on Terror.

A friend of mine, Anthony Grisanti, who also volunteers with me at the United War Veterans Council of NYC, invited me to attend a Building Homes for Heroes fundraiser in support of Iraq war veteran Army SSG William Castillo. William's story is truly heroic and I want to share it with you:

William Castillo survived five bullet wounds – including one that exited through his mouth – after a bomb exploded under his Humvee in Iraq.  He was struggling to get back to the burning truck to help his buddies when a missile cut through the vehicle – and severed his left leg.  He was the lone survivor of the attack.  His recovery was spent at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and on June 29th, 2007 he was awarded a Purple Heart.

Hearing this story in detail was unbelievable. But actually seeing the man, survivor who triumphed and who was given his life back, standing right in front of me, left me feeling humbled. No matter what life brings it's how you survive and handle your own personal battles. This man is a hero and didn't let his wounds hold him back.

I was able to discuss the conditions and treatment at the Walter Reed Hospital with SSG Castillo. We also discussed another service member, Chris Levy, from Long Island, who I had a chance to meet during my last visit to Walter Reed. Chris was also a recipient of a home from Building Homes for Heroes.

You can read Chris' Story here:

Every encounter I have with a service member who has survived an attack, injury, or combat opens my eyes and reminds me of what strong amazing men and women we have serving our country.

600 military men and women have put their lives on the line and returned from Iraq and Afghanistan as amputees. These men and women deserve all of our help and support and I'm honored to be involved and a part of Building Homes for Heroes--helping to improve their quality of life.